Magwa Tea Plantation: Why we should cut our losses and go

Issued by Retief Odendaal, MPL
Shadow MEC for Rural Development and Agrarian Reform

The Democratic Alliance is calling on the provincial government to cut its losses in the Magwa Tea Plantation, accept that the project has failed and move on.

Instead of reviewing the feasibility of the project, the Eastern Cape Provincial Government has budgeted a staggering R88 million for the plantation over the next three years. This is over and above the R305 million invested by the Government between the 2012/13 and 2020/21 financial years.

Despite this significant investment, the plantation only managed to produce 2 880 tonnes of tea leaves. This puts the average cost per tonne of Magwa Tea at R105,000.00 – nearly triple the cost of international tea prices!

In 2020, the provincial government started looking for a private sector investor to develop the facility into a new eco-tourism hub and diversification into other crops such as avocados and macadamia nuts.

However, in response to parliamentary questions from the DA, the MEC for Rural Development and Agrarian Reform, Nonkqubela Pieters, has revealed that government could not find a willing business partner for the project.

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There are many other agricultural projects which are in desperate need of funding in the province. It is simply unfair to continue to invest in a project that has no viable future, allowing it to be a burden on taxpayers for years to come.

Although this is going to be devastating for the people who are dependent on Magwa Tea, the government needs to invest in job creation initiatives that are viable, otherwise, it is just money down the drain.

The DA will continue to fight to get the Director-General of the National Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development to investigate the failed operations at Magwa.

The Provincial Government cannot afford to invest in this failing operation any longer. The time has come to realise that no amount of money is going to be able to save this project. We need to cut our losses and go.